Skype has been a highly useful “go-to” tool for connecting and maintaining communication with people in my professional network.
In the district where I teach, there is a distinguished alumni program which honors graduates of our district that have made substantial contributions to the world in their careers and personal lives. One such alumni, named Lori, received this award and happened to be named Alaska’s teacher of the year a few years ago. She is an elementary school music teacher in Alaska who has pioneered successful El Systema strings programs at academically struggling elementary schools. She is a big part of an organization there called Juneau Alaska Music Matters. Clearly, she deserves the national award and recognition from her alma mater!
My elementary students were asked to create a presentation/ performance to be a part of the ceremony, to which Lori would be invited. This performance would he given in front of the entire high school student body, and distinguished guests.
Once we had begun our performance preparations, I connected with Lori via e-mail to get some ideas about what might best supplement her speech and message she’d like to share at the awards ceremony. At her suggestion, she suggested that we try to get our classes to collaborate via Skype. Our students were totally in love with the idea of meeting one another through Skype and sharing about Pennsylvania and Alaska and the differences that each place offered. The best thing about the experience for the students though was the opportunity to share music with each other. They taught us songs, and we taught them songs and we even made some music together. We were able to make a connection a continent away not only for ourselves as professionals but for our students. It was an amazing way to bring students together who lived on opposite extreme ends of a very large continent!
I find myself needing to make plans for co-teaching in the summer courses that I instruct with colleagues who are in other parts of the world. We use Skype extensively to meet online, and talk face to face (in a loose sense) and share materials and ideas in real time. This helps immensely in reducing e-mailing and attachments, etc.
In several organizations in which I belong and hold leadership positions, some national and other regional, we are able to save time and money with Skype because is prevents us from having to travel long distances to hold meetings to do organizational work. We simply find a time that we all agree could work, and then hold a Skype meeting. It works so well, I even suggest these at times with local people to prevent the time and expense to travel from town to town.
I think these uses for Skype are highly effective, and I will continue to use Skype in this way in the future. I am currently experimenting with the shared screen options that will help at times in design phases and planning sessions.
I hope to gain and maintain an open line of clear and focused communication that incorporates the human elements of interaction like facial expressions and body language into the equation.
Skype and other tools similar to it like FaceTime and GoToMeeting all have very positive effects on organizational productivity and maximizing potentials.